Humans are known for pushing their physical endurance, what with so many people running in 5Ks, 10Ks, half or full marathons. It seems that a little furry friend from the arctic is also pushing her physical limits. An arctic fox from Norway was recently found in Canada after traveling over 2,100 miles in the winter.
The young fox was fitted with a GPS tracking device in late March 2018 by researchers at Norway’s Polar Institute. The fox was released into the wild on the east coast of Spitsbergen, an island in northern Norway. Twenty-one days into her journey, she reached Greenland, over 900 miles away from her starting point. Fifty-five days after arriving in Greenland, the fox appeared in Canada’s Ellesmere Island, adding 1,200 miles to her journey. The Polar Institute made this handy GIF below to show the route the fox took to get to the island. But scientists are still unsure exactly how she made the trek, and so quickly.
What’s remarkable about the fox’s journey is not so much the distance she crossed, but how fast she got there. The fox traveled an average of 28.5 miles in her 76 day journey. According to data, sometimes reached 96 miles traveled in a day.
Besides showcasing an incredible feat, this fast fox is providing researchers with data on how foxes cope with changing weather conditions. Since food is difficult to find in winter, foxes tend to migrate to other areas in order to survive. Besides being an example of the species’ incredible endurance, this fox’s journey shows how far these animals can travel to new habitats.
The fox’s journey wasn’t easy though. As pointed out before, the little creature had to break up her journey to Canada into chunks. Researchers believe that while in Greenland, the fox either sat out the bad weather or found a steady supply of food. Arctic foxes typically eat marine life, so researchers are interested in how they will adapt to the Canadian island’s rodent food supply. Unfortunately, the fox’s transmitter died in February 2019, so scientists are no longer able to track her specific movements.
This arctic fox’s journey also points to ways these foxes deal with shrinking polar caps. Already foxes can’t travel to Iceland, and it is possible that in the future, the Spitsbergen population may become isolated. However, higher temperatures could mean that other food sources become readily available, such as Svalbard reindeer, which foxes already scavenge from.
We’re excited to see if any other arctic foxes can make a long trek like this one. Perhaps an arctic fox will show up in our American neck of the woods?
Images: Fox, Norway Polar Institute, Disney